NHS Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 9th February 2005.

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Photo of John Reid John Reid Secretary of State, Department of Health, The Secretary of State for Health 12:31 pm, 9th February 2005

The estimate that up to 15 per cent. might be added to capacity, or might be private operations, is just that—an estimate; it is not a target and it is not being driven. It will depend on patient choice. We are expanding the NHS and diversifying the type of treatment, making it much more efficient. It is free at the point of need, and in addition we are buying in bulk to push the price down and to give the patient the choice of quicker access to services. That is precisely why we have halved waiting times, and why we have taken 340,000 people off the waiting lists that we inherited from the Conservatives. Ultimately, it will be the choice of the individual—[Interruption.] I cannot hear what Mr. Burstow is saying from a sedentary position. If he is asking whether that is a substitute for NHS operations, I can tell him that when the Government came to power NHS operations were below 5 million, and that about 6.5 million operations will be carried out directly through the NHS, so we are not taking anything away. In addition, there will be another 500,000. That is good for patients. For heaven's sake, I wish that for once the Liberals would think of these things from the patient's point of view, rather than always from the producer's or the provider's point of view.

For 60 years, no Government of either party have measured hidden waits, and we do not have the mechanisms to do so at present; but I have pledged that if the Labour Government are re-elected not only will we ensure that the maximum wait is 18 weeks, as opposed to 18 months under the previous Government, but that that will be the time for the whole patient journey. Previously, one third of the journey took up two years, we shall now pledge the time right through from the GP to the door of the operating theatre.

The hon. Gentleman asked about local decision making. At present, 75 per cent. of all money is distributed to PCTs, and they take responsibility for it. He asked about GP front-line engagement. Yes, we need more GP engagement in a range of areas, including the introduction of IT, which is why, recently, I put not only more effort but £95 million into that.

The hon. Gentleman asked about workers in restaurants and pubs. They will be protected to the maximum where smoking is banned completely. No restaurants will allow smoking, but even in the minority of pubs that continue to allow smoking, there will be restrictions around the bar area to protect all workers.

Finally, I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he said when he started: he appreciated the 8.1 and 8.2 per cent. increases in his constituency—£35 million followed by £37 million. He was not in the least bit churlish, and he should not be, because he is getting an 8.1 per cent. increase. To put that in context, the person who was churlish—Mr. Lansley, the Opposition spokesman—is actually getting a bigger increase: 8.2 per cent. I thank the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam for his charitable and non-churlish response.